East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

Feb. 21 Workshop

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Workshop on East Asia: Politics, Economy and Society Presents

“Authoritarian Survival and the Politics of Containment:
Why Local Governments in China Tolerate Unregistered Protestant Churches”

Presenter: Marie-Eve Reny
Postdoctoral Research Fellow of Political Science
University of Chicago

4:00-5:30pm, Tuesday
Feb. 21, 2012
Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.

Abstract: In an attempt to explain authoritarian regime survival, the comparative literature in political science has emphasized among other factors, leaders’ strategic use of cooptation to integrate parts of the opposition into a corporatist system of representation and repression to eliminate others. Yet, in reality, authoritarian regimes face a range of societal groups that they are unable to coopt and against which they cannot use extensive force. Using as an empirical terrain the case of local governments’ responses to underground Protestant churches in Mainland China, this paper argues that authoritarian state actors may choose informal tolerance over cooptation and coercion to contain the subversive potential of an uncooptable group in society. They are likely to embrace this strategy under two conditions: first, when existing institutions of cooptation are ineffective but their reform could compromise the survival of the regime, and when suppression is too costly for the political stability of the regime. Second, when members of the uncooptable space seek to minimize the risks of being harassed for rejecting cooptation, officials have an opportunity to trade informal autonomy for compliance on their part. Ultimately, containment contributes to authoritarian regime survival in that it increases the costs of political mobilization on the part of the informally tolerated groups, and creates divisions among compliant and politicized uncooptable segments of society.

Workshop website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia/
Student coordinator: Yang Zhang (yangzhang@uchicago.edu)
Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang and Dingxin Zhao

The workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for East Asian Studies. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance, please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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